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Do You Want to Play a Game?

Once again, I think I’ll take the opportunity to talk about something I’m probably nowhere near qualified to discuss. What’s this topic you ask? Gaming. I wouldn’t really consider myself to be a gamer. I don’t have any manner of gaming system and aside from getting hooked on the first assassin’s creed on my buddy’s xbox in college, video games have never really been my thing. So a couple months ago when I downloaded “The Walking Dead: Road to Survival” I expected I’d probably play it for the evening to distract myself from feeling lonely and then it would soon be forgotten about until I periodically went through my apps to delete things I don’t use.

This turned out not to be the case because I joined what is called a “Faction”, and started chatting with some of the other people in the group. Considering that my primary reason for downloading it in the first place was to stave off loneliness, suddenly having a bunch of new people to talk to was a very welcome surprise. If you’d asked me before that night what I thought people playing video games talk to each other about my answer would have, of course, been whatever game they were playing.

There was some of that as much as was necessary to work together on common goals, but the bulk of the conversation was people just talking about their lives with each other. They were sharing things that they might not talk to the people they knew from their daily lives about for fear of judgement. I was kind of blown away by it and found myself joining in the conversations and talking about my own life. The next night after Kayla was asleep in bed, I signed back on.

I was curious as to how some of the people I had talked to the night before were doing, how their days went, and whether the things they were worried about had happened or been avoided. Over the next few weeks I found a couple guys in my small faction that were usually on around the same time that I was, and we became friends. I didn’t ask them about sharing their names with you all, so I’ll just call them Dogg and Somebody for the sake of respecting their privacy.

Within our faction, most of the players weren’t really all that active which wasn’t very helpful when we were trying to work together to take over a territory or win a battle. So the three of us, along with a couple others decided to leave and start our own faction. To make a long story short, that faction basically ended up becoming a new one again when another co-leader took control of it while the three of us were busy attending to things in the real world. That next one didn’t last very long for us either and the people I’d been with since that first night all kind of went their separate ways.

At this point, I had been playing the game fairly regularly for a couple months and Somebody was someone that I had been talking with daily (wow that just sounds weird, maybe I should have picked a different name aside from Somebody, but I think if he ever reads this he’ll understand my reasoning). We talked about the joys and struggles of being parents and the headaches of relationships, He knew what things I was struggling with in my own life and I knew about what had been stressing him out and making life difficult. We were there for each other and it was great to have someone other than my real-world friends and family that I could just be completely honest with and not worry about being judged.

Shortly before I left that last faction when things were getting unbearable, I signed in one day to find Dogg and Somebody were gone. Without being in the same faction, I didn’t have any way that I knew of to get in touch with them. Well, that’s not entirely true, Somebody and I had become friends on Facebook, but we’d never chatted outside of the game. Before I left the faction myself, I managed to find out from the leader where Somebody had gone when he left. Armed with that information, I was able to find him again and re-connect.

Talking to him was one of the main reasons I kept signing on to the game at that point, so it was a relief when I got a reply from him inviting me to join him in the faction he’d moved to, The Abigail. I was welcomed into the group and quickly started making a few new friends. It was definitely different than some of the other factions I’d been in. Instead of having just a select few that I would talk with, pretty much everyone was friendly and would chat with me whenever they were on. We all worked together well to achieve things none of my previous factions could have hoped to accomplish.

Now you might be noticing that I’m referring to this latest faction in the past tense and wondering what comes next. What happened? Did it too all fall apart? Nope! Not at all. I’m still there and now instead of having just Somebody to talk to (that just cracks me up every time I write it), I’ve got lots of others and I really feel like I’m part of a group. It’s really pretty cool. Any of them reading this might have something to say about what I’m going to say next, but I hope they’ll understand.

Even though I sign on and play this game regularly, I still don’t consider myself a gamer. There are people that are really into the game and spend actual money on various things just to improve their team or achieve higher ranks. I’m not like that. Quite frankly, I’m not even really all that into the game itself. It’s a pretty simple game with five little characters on the screen. Your five characters either fight five characters that belong to another player, or a small horde of zombies.

That’s it. That’s pretty much the whole game. There are a few variations on this but it’s basically all the same thing over and over again. It has the graphics you’d expect from a free to download cell phone game. It’s kind of fucking boring. But the people that you play the game with are what makes it fun. Jessie, Beth, Martin, and of course, Somebody, among others, are the reason I keep signing in and playing this repetitive game. They’re great people and I really enjoy talking with them and getting to know them all.

Whether we’re sending pictures back and forth of our pups being goofy or sharing some amusing story of something one of our kids did, it’s like being part of a family of sorts. A family that’s spread out all over the world and has a very diverse set of perspectives and experiences to share. I’m here in Ohio playing a silly little game on my phone and having a conversation with Jessie out in Las Vegas, Beth in Chicago, Somebody from Arizona (not just somebody as in some random person, Somebody, the one with the capital S), and later on in the evening Martin will often sign on from his home in Finland.

It’s a really cool experience to get to talk to people from all over simultaneously that have come together because of some random game we happened to download to our phones. I’ve gotten invitations to come travel and stay with some of the people I met if I make it out that way (many of them want me to come tattoo them which would be pretty cool too). Martin (who’s birthday is today, so Happy Birthday Martin if you happen to read this) even taught me a bit of Finnish, specifically what the name of one of the knives I carry that was made there means. Tonight he even sent me a recording of how to pronounce it properly and not sound like an ignorant American!

When I was stumped about what I might follow up the past two nights posts with, it was Jessie that suggested I talk about the game and how people form bonds and lasting friendships through games like this. Evidently quite a few people have even found their significant others this way, a fact that I found rather surprising. It makes me wonder which has a higher success rate in the matchmaking department, games or apps like Match. I’ve heard almost nothing but horror stories regarding online dating services but maybe there’s something to meeting people this way. You talk to someone and get to know them based on who they are and what they have to say instead of forming your opinion of them based first on the way they look in a profile photo and what they think they are looking for in a relationship.

Beth shared with me tonight when we were all talking about me writing this, that she had found her best friend in a similar way when she was 18 but didn’t actually meet them face to face until 11 years later! I had no idea things like this happened! To me that’s just really awesome. To be able to form a lasting bond with someone you’ve never even met and be there for each other based solely on what the other person has to say.

I’ve heard that it’s similar on other gaming platforms where people actually talk to each other with headsets or something like that which, to me at least, goes a long way to explain how some people get so into the games they play. While I typically will prefer a good book to a video game, I can now totally see the appeal of these types of games where you can kind of mindlessly distract yourself and have nice pleasant conversations with people all over the world.

Having spent time talking to them and getting to know them a little bit just by chatting, I kind of want to plan a long ass road trip for a week or so once it warms up and make a big loop with stops in cities where they each live so I can actually meet them face to face. I think that would be so much fun. I dunno about riding a motorcycle in the heat of summer across the Nevada desert to get to Las Vegas, but it certainly would be a memorable experience.

Sometimes I can get a little irritated by technology and the complaining I see all too often on social media. But then I see really uplifting posts or stories people have shared and I have to take a moment to be grateful for it. Tonight, I’ve got one more thing to add to that list of gratitude; having downloaded that game months ago and joining the faction I’m in now. I am always grateful for my family and my friends (who I consider to basically be family). I’m grateful for the family I’ve found through Rootwire, My tribe.

And now I’m also grateful for my faction family and all the stories and experiences we share! Next time you’re feelin’ lonely and down, or when you’re just stressed out and need a mental break, if you haven’t tried playing any games, maybe give it a shot. You might just find it surprises you as much as it did me! Thanks for reading, and a special thanks to Somebody (haha that just never gets old), Jessie, Beth, and Martin for letting me share some of their stories alongside my own!